NAACP, CWA Seek Strong, Enforceable Internet Rules

The NAACP and Communications Workers of America teamed up on comments to the FCC this week asking for strong rules to protect an open internet, but also rules that would not discourage investment and job creation.

The pair backed former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's initial, non-Title II path to open internet rules, which morphed into Title II with the strong backing of President Barack Obama, and signaled they would be okay with a return to that approach.

The FCC under Wheeler's successor, Ajit Pai, is proposing to reclassify ISPs under Title I and rethink the rules.

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CWA and NAACP said they supported bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, unreasonable discrimination and promoting transparency, and wanted them put on solid footing, though it saw more than one way to do that.

They suggested that sticking with Title II was one approach, but that another was the Wheeler proposal that they initially backed and said had followed the instructions of the court that it could adopt no-blocking or discrimination rules if it also allowed negotiated agreements under a commercially reasonable standard. (The D.C. Appeals court, in striking down the 2010 non-Title II-based rules against blocking and degrading, said that an absolute prohibition was permissible under Title II, but not Title I).

Whichever the FCC chooses, it said, "It is long past time to provide a sound, sustainable legal basis for Commission enforcement of open internet rules." More than one commenter has said it is time to end the regulatory and legal ping-pong game that has stretched over more than a decade.

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But they also made clear they thought Title II was not necessary, so long as the FCC adopted bright-line rules.

"It continues to be our view that, the “commercially reasonable” standard outlined by the D.C. Circuit Court in the 2014 Verizon decision provides a legally sustainable framework to protect the open internet, while promoting increased investment in broadband networks to benefit all internet consumers."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.